Thought Experiment: Atheism and the establishment clause

RhadTheGizmo
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Thought Experiment: Atheism and the establishment clause

 Query:  Can the united states take an official position of atheism?

In order to avoid what I might consider off-topic speculation.. I do not mean as a practical matter, only as a legal matter: i.e., does an government's official position of atheism constitute an unconstitutional respecting of an establishment of religion? or, i.e., could the government take your position (as an atheist) on religion and not run contrary to the establishment clause of the first amendment?


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Well, atheism is not a

Well, atheism is not a religion, so I don't think it would break any rules as long as the government still allows the religious freedom of it's individuals.

Obviously I don't believe it would ever happen, but that is not what you asked.

Even though I obviously believe in the separation of church and state, and declaring atheism would not go against that, I don't believe the government should. Even though I don't like religion, I don't think it is the place of the government to interfere except in extreme cases.

I do believe the government should interfere in any cases of abuse etc, which I think it does already. I also don't think that groups promoting hatred and/or militant groups should be allowed to exist.

I really can not believe that you guys still have the kkk.

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Actually, yes. I do think

Actually, yes. I do think it's possible to infringe on the establishment clause that way.

Remember that it's there to prevent religious strata among the citizens, to allow for the imprefection of human beings... in short to protect the freedom of the citizens.

So, any attempt to establish atheism as the established "religious" position of the state would indeed breach the establishment clause.

We have to be careful here, though, to see where that border really is, since atheism is not a religion but is often treated as such inappropriately.

The line would be would be at such things as a law prohibiting belief in a deity or deities, an American Atheist logo permanently enshrined at the courthouse, policy disallowing theists from holding positions of influence in government, etc.

But a secular government would not be a breach. A secular government is neutral to its citizens beliefs or lack of beliefs. Folks often conflate atheism and secularism, which is a mistake as they are quite separate, different things. Employees, appointed and elected leaders would perform their duties without regard to their or the citizen's beliefs but have every freedom to hold and act on their beliefs outside the context of their duties.

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


RhadTheGizmo
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 Just to interject for a

 Just to interject for a moment and then I'll step back again.  I think a distinction might need to be made between an establishment of religion and the infringement on the free exercise thereof.  While they issues often overlap, I think that it is clear that a "law prohibiting belief" would violate the free exercise clause of the US constitution (1st amendment), disallowing theists from holding positions of influence would likely violate article VI or a free speech violation.. 

 

The atheist logo would perhaps be more applicable to the original question because, arguably, it is an "establishment of religion" but does not infringe upon the "free exercise of religion" per se. 

 

and with that.. I go back to studying religious liberty.


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RhadTheGizmo wrote: Query:

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 Query:  Can the united states take an official position of atheism?

In order to avoid what I might consider off-topic speculation.. I do not mean as a practical matter, only as a legal matter: i.e., does an government's official position of atheism constitute an unconstitutional respecting of an establishment of religion? or, i.e., could the government take your position (as an atheist) on religion and not run contrary to the establishment clause of the first amendment?

This is a stupid question. You assume automatically that only atheists are concerned about government and religion mixing. Go to www.au.org which is a multi faith organization that fights to keep the neutrality of the Constitution in tact.

DO NOT falsely confuse those who seek to keep public institutions and national symbols neutral with wanting an atheist sstate.

The First Amendment means, "We wont come after you for beliefs, BUT WE WONT AID YOU EITHER, that is something you do on your own time with your own resources".

Our flag has no religious symbol on it, does that make it an atheist symbol? Or is it merely a neutral symbol that symbolizes the diversity of our country?

The government is not owned by Christians or Jews or atheists or Buddhists, it is THE only institution that ALL citizens use, and as such it must be neutral.

"As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" Article 11 Barbary Treaty(Treaty of Tripoli) signed by both houses of Congress without dissent, and signed into LAW, June 10th 1797 by president John Adams.

The government, according to the Constitution is forbid from any official position for or against any religion. The First Amendment protects, AND EVERY ATHEIST HERE , that I know of, agrees that it protects freedom of religion. Christian revisionists like to take that to mean "I get to pee on every  government tree, and gang tag it, like a lion marking it's territory. The government is not yours or mine, it is OURS.

If you have any doubts about YOUR religious freedom, look up "Churches" in the phone book, or look at the adds in your newspaper, or google "churchs" on the web, or turn on your TV Sunday morning.

God in the pledge and on our money WAS NOT always there. Removing them doesn't make our nation run by atheists. Removing them makes our symbols neutral, like the flag, which has NEVER had a religious symbol on it.

 

 

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RhadTheGizmo
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 Quote: This is a stupid

 

Quote:
This is a stupid question. You assume automatically that only atheists are concerned about government and religion mixing. Go to www.au.org which is a multi faith organization that fights to keep the neutrality of the Constitution in tact.

What the heck? I did? where was that implied?  I was merely asking a question as to the applicability of atheism respective of the establishment clause.  Why would argue that "only atheists are concerned about government and religion mixing"? Some very religious people fought hard to get the 1st amendment in there--and I for one am all for government neutrality.Stop reading to much into things. 
Quote:
DO NOT falsely confuse those who seek to keep public institutions and national symbols neutral with wanting an atheist sstate.
 DO NOT confuse one who asks a very narrow and specific question of insinuating what you claim in that sentence that he is insinuating. 
Quote:
The First Amendment means, "We wont come after you for beliefs, BUT WE WONT AID YOU EITHER, that is something you do on your own time with your own resources".
I don't believe that's what it says at all per se.. there are strong arguments that it merely means "we will not discriminate against you based upon your religion"--which would include, granting aid when the religion falls within a certain secularly defined group, e.g., private schools. 
Quote:
Our flag has no religious symbol on it, does that make it an atheist symbol? Or is it merely a neutral symbol that symbolizes the diversity of our country?
Er.. neither? 
Quote:
The government is not owned by Christians or Jews or atheists or Buddhists, it is THE only institution that ALL citizens use, and as such it must be neutral.
Okay. 
Quote:
"As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" Article 11 Barbary Treaty(Treaty of Tripoli) signed by both houses of Congress without dissent, and signed into LAW, June 10th 1797 by president John Adams.
Okay. 
Quote:
The government, according to the Constitution is forbid from any official position for or against any religion.
This was answer I was looking for.. and it would have been sufficient.  Of course a follow up with be is an "Atheist position" necessarily one "against religion [in the particular or in the general"? 
Quote:
The First Amendment protects, AND EVERY ATHEIST HERE , that I know of, agrees that it protects freedom of religion. Christian revisionists like to take that to mean "I get to pee on every  government tree, and gang tag it, like a lion marking it's territory. The government is not yours or mine, it is OURS.
Okay. 
Quote:
If you have any doubts about YOUR religious freedom, look up "Churches" in the phone book, or look at the adds in your newspaper, or google "churchs" on the web, or turn on your TV Sunday morning.
Okay. 
Quote:
God in the pledge and on our money WAS NOT always there. Removing them doesn't make our nation run by atheists. Removing them makes our symbols neutral, like the flag, which has NEVER had a religious symbol on it.
Okay. On a side note.  One of the first acts of the first congress was to hire a pastor to say prayer at the opening of session, I believe.. and the supreme court, since its inception I believe, did have the court opened with an invocation of God. So.. I mean.. just to point out--not to say that this alone suggests anything. You sure do argue a lot of things that didn't need to be argued based upon the original question.

 [edit] legislative opening prayer started in 1789, supreme court tradition started (unknown)


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ronin-dog wrote:Well,

ronin-dog wrote:

Well, atheism is not a religion, so I don't think it would break any rules as long as the government still allows the religious freedom of it's individuals.

Obviously I don't believe it would ever happen, but that is not what you asked.

Even though I obviously believe in the separation of church and state, and declaring atheism would not go against that, I don't believe the government should. Even though I don't like religion, I don't think it is the place of the government to interfere except in extreme cases.

I do believe the government should interfere in any cases of abuse etc, which I think it does already. I also don't think that groups promoting hatred and/or militant groups should be allowed tno exist.

I really can not believe that you guys still have the kkk.

Quote:
I also don't think that groups promoting hatred and/or militant groups should be allowed to exist.

Could you imagine Muslims in Europe with the power of law making in deciding what "hate speech" is? They would have had that Danish cartoonist arrested if not exicuted.

This kind of crap always gives me a lip twitch. You do realize that the opinions expressed on this website concerning religion is seen as "hatefull" no matter how missunderstood. Do you really want the theistic majority deciding what "hate speech" is?

At least in America, because I can't speak for other countries. LAWS ARE ALREADY IN PLACE, that make it illegal to harm, or advocate harm to others FOR WHATEVER REASON.

For the same reason you can't say, "Go kill joe shmo because he slept with my wife" you can't say, "go kill joe shmo because they are Muslim, or Jewish or atheist".

BUT, I damned sure don't want to live in a PC society where I cant bitch about things I don't like. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from being offended.

I am all for minimizing bigotry and hate. I am dead set against law language that makes the expression of thoughts illegal. "Hate speech" is bad law language and smacks of "thought police". Your good intent is going to bite you in the ass.

What PC atheists and Christians ect ect ect, fail to realize is that THEY may not be the jury, judge, cop or lawmaker deciding what is or is not "hate speech". It is dangerous to put that kind of power into the hands of legislature. Iran has "hate speech" laws against "offending Allah, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Common law applies to the atheist and Christian and BOTH are allowed to blaspheme and even insult each other. I can say, "The pope is an asshat" and the Christian can say, "Atheists are scum". WHAT NEITHER OF US CAN DO IS SAY, "Go harm the other".

Battling bigotry should not involve the bad tactic of using government to censor unpopular or offensive speech. The free market is where you battle without a government nipple.

DONT FUCK WITH FREE SPEECH!

Let the words fly in both directions from either side with the understanding that we don't harm, or advocate the harm of others. Don't tell me what I can or cannot say.

 

 

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 Ditto.Free speech is a

 Ditto.

Free speech is a pretty big thing down here.  Even the "no advocation of harm" rule is pretty tailored if I remember correctly..

I suppose you can still sue people for defamation.. but the requirements are pretty steep (IMO), even more so if your suing a media outlet.

Question: Doesn't europe still have a neo-nazi problem? Or do they just exist, not openly, as the KKK does?


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RhadTheGizmo wrote: Just to

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 Just to interject for a moment and then I'll step back again.  I think a distinction might need to be made between an establishment of religion and the infringement on the free exercise thereof.  While they issues often overlap, I think that it is clear that a "law prohibiting belief" would violate the free exercise clause of the US constitution (1st amendment), disallowing theists from holding positions of influence would likely violate article VI or a free speech violation.. 

 

The atheist logo would perhaps be more applicable to the original question because, arguably, it is an "establishment of religion" but does not infringe upon the "free exercise of religion" per se. 

 

and with that.. I go back to studying religious liberty.

I disagree somewhat. The two are very much intertwined. Then again, most freedoms/rights/civil liberties kind of prop one another up.


 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


RhadTheGizmo
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 Of course they can

 Of course they can overlap.. and often times do.. but I was strictly speaking pure establishment case. 

A public school can't forbid the teaching of evolution at a school because this would be "an establishment of religion"--according to the supreme court anyways.  

Is there a free exercise element in there? Perhaps... but its a lot harder of a case.  Or.. perhaps a nativity scene alone with a menorah at the local court house.. free exercise element? or just establishment violation?

My question, strictly establishment.  It is much more fascinating of a question because it doesn't, necessarily, infringe upon individual rights to have an openly religious government (or, in the alternative, an atheist one).  

Heh.. and no.. I am not in favor of either one.. I'm very fine with the (technically) secular federal government that we have.

 

 


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:A public

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

A public school can't forbid the teaching of evolution at a school because this would be "an establishment of religion"--according to the supreme court anyways.  

Is there a free exercise element in there? Perhaps... but its a lot harder of a case.  Or.. perhaps a nativity scene alone with a menorah at the local court house.. free exercise element? or just establishment violation?

Heh.. and no.. I am not in favor of either one.. I'm very fine with the (technically) secular federal government that we have.

 

When you get into things like not teaching evolution because your faith has a mutually exclusive competing idea about life that contradicts one of science's greatest theories, then that free exercise is impinging on the on the child's mental welfare. This rationalization is also a slippery slope, because you if you have enough sympathetic courts and expensive legal power, you can keeping pushing everything your religion disagrees with to get it either not taught in school, or your alternative taught along side it.

For the courthouse argument. I think it falls under the one and many idea. If you have one, you have to have them all represented. I doubt that the few hindus out there are going to come up and put up thousands of statues of Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesh etc. You basically have a nativity scene, a menorah, and if you are lucky a Flying Spaghetti Monster(may his noodly appendage bless you). I don't really understand why people feel they have to have their religious faith openly displayed at courthouses personally. It really does seem to suggest that you need your faith to be seen as one that provides the basis for justice or are actively trying to have your faith represented and exalted by government entities. There are so many places in the public and private square for this that I don't see a necessity of involving courthouses or other agents/locations of the state to celebrate holidays and validate one's religion. This is not a free exercise, it is a definitive reverence showed for one religion(Christianity) over all other religions, usually with a Menorah thrown in so as to not offend some Jews.

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

My question, strictly establishment.  It is much more fascinating of a question because it doesn't, necessarily, infringe upon individual rights to have an openly religious government (or, in the alternative, an atheist one).  

I think this is a fallacious statement, I know you said you disagree with it, but it is a contradiction of terms.

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I'm no constitutional

I'm no constitutional scholar, so my answer should be treated with skepticism.  However, it seems pretty clear to me that a religion must be some kind of organized, codified adherence to principles that are very unlikely to be induced independently.

I know that's a nontraditional answer, but assume for a moment that no religion is a true representation of empirical fact, nor is logically valid.  If that is true, all religions contain invalid logic and non-empirical fact.  While most logical forms have only one valid construction, the number of invalid arguments is almost limitless.  People are very unlikely to independently invent exactly the same religion.

(Just look at Christianity.  Even though they supposedly have an infallible book, they still have five digits worth of denominations.)

Here's where this becomes important.  Imagine (I know it's a stretch) that education standards in America went way up, and religion was discredited on a large scale.  Suppose 90% of the country became atheists, and virtually all of them believed in empiricism and logic.  If this happened, it stands to reason that the voters would demand many changes, such as teaching only evolution in biology class, allowing stem cell research, gay marriage, etc...

If this happened, the 10% theists who remained would probably bitch about the establishment clause, but it wouldn't be a good argument.  Empiricism and logic cannot be a religion because ten people, completely unaware of each other, are likely to reach the same results if they do an experiment correctly.  That's because, well... their results would be true.

Think about this very carefully, and I think you'll understand why atheism (unadorned with nonessential dogma) cannot ever be a religion.  Religion, by definition, cannot be empirically true and logically valid.  If it were, it would be called "science."

A religion must be taught.  Sure, it's probable that people have independently invented elements of a particular religion -- reincarnation, perhaps.  However, it's pretty much impossible to invent Buddhism without ever being exposed to it.

Science and logic are methods, not religions.  I'm not going to belabor the point by explaining the obvious in detail.  So long as large numbers of people are demanding things based on their understanding of science and logic, it cannot be said to be religious.  Only when someone steps out of the bounds of what many people could independently discover does the possibility of religion enter the picture.

 

Oh, and to echo other people's statements, yeah, if you add something to atheism, like state worship, it can become an establishment issue.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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RhadTheGizmo
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 Quote:When you get into

 

Quote:
When you get into things like not teaching evolution because your faith has a mutually exclusive competing idea about life that contradicts one of science's greatest theories, then that free exercise is impinging on the on the child's mental welfare. This rationalization is also a slippery slope, because you if you have enough sympathetic courts and expensive legal power, you can keeping pushing everything your religion disagrees with to get it either not taught in school, or your alternative taught along side it.

Because evolution is outlawed in a particular state, that is "impinging on the child's mental welfare"? This is a bit of a stretch.. it is merely changing the curriculum. 

 

While the purpose of excluding the subject maybe religious in nature (which is why the court have struck down most of these laws), the purpose, in itself, nor the exclusion of science, in itself, would the courts argue (IMO) that it "impinges on the child's mental welfare."

 

A k-12 school can teach solely reading, writing, and math--nothing else--would such a curriculum "impinge on the child's mental welfare"?

 

Quote:
This is not a free exercise, it is a definitive reverence showed for one religion(Christianity) over all other religions, usually with a Menorah thrown in so as to not offend some Jews.

i.e., an establishment clause violation--which is why I used the example.. I wanted to limit the discussion to "atheism and whether it could ever violate the establishment clause in the same way that religion can."

 

Quote:
I think this is a fallacious statement, I know you said you disagree with it, but it is a contradiction of terms.

That's fine that you think that.. I think many/most constitutional scholars would disagree with you.. the argument as to whether all establishment violations infringe upon free exercise rights (or whether the establishment violation itself can be framed as an individual right) is up in the air... it seems.

 

Hammy:

Good argument.  I like it.  No constitutional scholar are you.. nor am I.. but it definitely makes sense.

I wonder if a fault, however, is this... and forgive me, for my understanding of the terminology might be a little rusty.. but do you use atheism in the sense of "secularist" or atheism in the sense of "non-theist".. or.. atheism in the sense of "theism is wrong."

 

The first, no problems there.. I think the US government, as is, purports to be secular.

 

If the middle.. once again.. no problem.. but being a "non-theist" would entail being a "secularist."  Would it not?

 

The last.. is the one I am most interested in, and I wonder if it can still fit into your argument structure.

If the government teaches that "God does not exist".. would that be a logical position? Or does atheism (the final category) merely purport that "God cannot be proven to exist, therefore I do not believe that he does."

 

Something along those lines?

 

I seem to remember some absolute rule regarding logic and not being able to prove a negative.. would this cause a problem in your argument?  Kudos though.. nicely put.. although I must give it more thought.


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I do not equate secularism

I do not equate secularism with atheism, nor can I think of any reason to.

I don't see any potential problems with not proving negatives.  I don't even see how that's remotely applicable.

I don't advocate that the government teach that God does not exist.  That would be crossing the separation of church and state.  I advocate that the government remain utterly silent.

My whole argument hinges on the correct understanding of atheism -- that it is a non-position.  When you start talking about teaching or advocating only that which is empirically provable, you are not advocating atheism, but materialism or empiricism.  Both of these are positive positions which attempt to prove their validity.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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 Quote:My whole argument

 

Quote:
My whole argument hinges on the correct understanding of atheism -- that it is a non-position.

I knew this.. which is why I asked for clarification as opposed to assuming and arguing. Smiling

Quote:
 When you start talking about teaching or advocating only that which is empirically provable, you are not advocating atheism, but materialism or empiricism.  Both of these are positive positions which attempt to prove their validity.

If atheism = non-position (on religion), then this is, in essence, what we have today.  Or at least, in part.. there are some still remnants of the olds times that the courts seem to be having problems dealing with.. but, at the center, I believe, is a position of neutrality.

I just thought that atheism, necessarily, took a position on religion (theism or otherwise). 

 

 


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:Because

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Because evolution is outlawed in a particular state, that is "impinging on the child's mental welfare"? This is a bit of a stretch.. it is merely changing the curriculum. 

 

While the purpose of excluding the subject maybe religious in nature (which is why the court have struck down most of these laws), the purpose, in itself, nor the exclusion of science, in itself, would the courts argue (IMO) that it "impinges on the child's mental welfare."

 

A k-12 school can teach solely reading, writing, and math--nothing else--would such a curriculum "impinge on the child's mental welfare"?

I think any time you teach things to children with the sole purpose of eradicating things that are widely held as facts so they do not trump your religious beliefs as absolute truth is dishonest, and cannot be labeled as "merely changing the curriculum." Education is power. Teaching children by an authority who bases their teachings on evidenciary realism, and then being required to teach things that contradict a reality-based view of the world is not the same as say focusing on Empires in Asia  in World History Class one year then  focusing on  European History  in later years. These are distinctly different criteria.

 

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

i.e., an establishment clause violation--which is why I used the example.. I wanted to limit the discussion to "atheism and whether it could ever violate the establishment clause in the same way that religion can."

 

That's fine that you think that.. I think many/most constitutional scholars would disagree with you.. the argument as to whether all establishment violations infringe upon free exercise rights (or whether the establishment violation itself can be framed as an individual right) is up in the air... it seems.

I was responding to your earlier statements that I quoted. I think it has been fairly well argued above that atheism does not equal secularism. Prohibiting religious people's rights to believe things(provided they are not hurting people or breaking the law) is unethical and illegal. For Atheism to be a religion of the state is again, a contradiction in terms, and I think is forcing a comparison of unlike entities that cannot truly be drawn. If a government(that happened to be comprised of all/or mainly atheists) restricted rights to worship or believe certain things(as ludicrous as some things are), then that would in fact violate the establishment clause in my opinion. I read the clause as not having the right of enforcing or restricting a particular belief system(through laws or decrees) on the governed. For the government to make the claim,"no God exists" would be a violation of the establishment clause, because it does negate the belief system of all deity-based religions. It has taken a position of knowledge that cannot be proven or disproved. This would be ridiculous. The government should be quiet in these matters, as it is a secular government's place to stay outside of the fray where free exercise of one's religion is involved with a few parameters, of course. I would agree with the Reynolds v. United States where The Court said, "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices." 

 

 

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Quote:If atheism =

Quote:
If atheism = non-position (on religion), then this is, in essence, what we have today.  Or at least, in part.. there are some still remnants of the olds times that the courts seem to be having problems dealing with.. but, at the center, I believe, is a position of neutrality.

It's what we have today in theory, but not in practice.  It's not as bad as Iran, obviously, but the church and state are not separate and neutral towards one another.  It's more evident outside of the courts.  For instance, tax exempt status for churches is a clear violation.

Quote:
I just thought that atheism, necessarily, took a position on religion (theism or otherwise).

Politically, no.  Individually, yeah.  Most atheists believe that the Christian god does not exist, and that's a position.  (I'm contrasting this with neutral disbelief, which is only really possible when one is too ignorant of something to form a belief.)

It's a mistake to think of atheism as a political position.  One can be a theist and advocate state neutrality, and one can be an atheist and advocate theocracy (although why one would is beyond me.)

Atheism is an epistemological stance.  Nothing more.  Humanism, secularism, empiricism, naturalism... these are philosophies that often follow from atheism, but they are not atheism.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Teaching only reading,

Teaching only reading, writing and math to students would be an utter disaster. People need to understand at least the basics of science - and without the base in elementary through high school, how would they ever get interested enough in science, history etc to decide to take it in college - plus do we want future scietists to have to learn everything they normally would learn about science up until that point (which, unfortunately isn't much due to the utterly pathetic state of Science education in the US)

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 Quote:It's what we have

 

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It's what we have today in theory, but not in practice.  It's not as bad as Iran, obviously, but the church and state are not separate and neutral towards one another.  It's more evident outside of the courts.  For instance, tax exempt status for churches is a clear violation.

It's only a clear violation if you adhere to the theory of formal neutrality (or like minded theory) as opposed to substantial neutrality.

 

i.e., can a government ever be neutral towards religion if it regulates it? or must it leave it alone?

 

It's the same question with equal protection cases--the 14th amendment clearly states "equal protection under the laws"--but does this mean formal or substantive neutrality? i.e., do we allow things like affirmative action, or not?

 

to put it another way.. the 1st amendment says "shall not infringe upon the free exercise of religion"---how exactly is taxing a church not an infringement? some might read it as clearly one.. although, I understand that many people understand this amendment to mean something more akin to "infringe = neutral" of "infringe = substantially burden".

 

Quote:
It's a mistake to think of atheism as a political position.  One can be a theist and advocate state neutrality, and one can be an atheist and advocate theocracy (although why one would is beyond me.)

Atheism is an epistemological stance.  Nothing more.  Humanism, secularism, empiricism, naturalism... these are philosophies that often follow from atheism, but they are not atheism.

Ah.. well then.. I guess I'm more interesting in "atheism as a political stance"--or something that might be turned into a political position.  For instance.. tomorrow the united states is atheist, in that, I mean, they have established, through whatever means necessary, "naturalism" or "humanism" as the official position of the US government.

 

Establishment clause violation?

 

Of course this is all academics.. theoretical.. but it is interesting to think about.. for me at least.

 

Quote:
People need to understand at least the basics of science

Isn't mathematics a science? so they will have the basics of science........... understood through the prism of math.

 

Quote:
how would they ever get interested enough in science, history etc to decide to take it in college

Don't need art classes to get interested in art.  Don't need film classes to get interested in film.  Somehow, I think they would find a way.

 

Quote:
plus do we want future scietists to have to learn everything they normally would learn about science up until that point (which, unfortunately isn't much due to the utterly pathetic state of Science education in the US)

I cannot believe that the future scientists of the world really benefited much from their education in science during k-12.  I would assume the majority of their knowledge came from undergrad, grad and post grad.

 

I don't think the system would be as bad as you think.  of course.. just speculation.


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:Quote:how

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Quote:
how would they ever get interested enough in science, history etc to decide to take it in college

Don't need art classes to get interested in art.  Don't need film classes to get interested in film.  Somehow, I think they would find a way.

 

Quote:
plus do we want future scietists to have to learn everything they normally would learn about science up until that point (which, unfortunately isn't much due to the utterly pathetic state of Science education in the US)

I cannot believe that the future scientists of the world really benefited much from their education in science during k-12.  I would assume the majority of their knowledge came from undergrad, grad and post grad.

 

I don't think the system would be as bad as you think.  of course.. just speculation.

This is a bad argument. If someone could withhold knowledge(or simply not be aware) of what causes tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning, then we have seen religion usually fills in these gaps with God and makes their existence teleological with respect to certain grievances said God has. Not understanding germ theory and washing yourself regularly can lead to serious disease. There are very real consequences to taking science out of school.  Not having a fundamental understanding of science(assuming you won't get it from anywhere else) really does alter your entire worldview, especially if you have been indoctrinated with anti-science religious beliefs or superstitions during that K-12 timespan. If you are arguing that the majority of useful scientific knowledge you will attain with respect to your given field will be learned after mandatory public schooling, then that is a valid point, but a completely separate argument from what you have lumped it in with. Having a general scientific education is quite important, and is many times the specific impetus for attaining higher education in scientific fields, as it was in my case.

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Quote:i.e., can a government

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i.e., can a government ever be neutral towards religion if it regulates it? or must it leave it alone?

If government enforces exactly the same laws on religion as non-religion, then it is neutral.

Government funding is an entirely different question, but I think that entails more of the idea of not promoting one religion over any other, or a lack of one.

Quote:
i.e., do we allow things like affirmative action, or not?

I don't have a fully formed opinion of this specific question, but with regard to religion, I don't see it applying.  You're born into your race.  Religion (ostensibly) is a choice.

Quote:
-how exactly is taxing a church not an infringement?

In the same way taxing a secular business is not an infringement.  Taxation is simply paying for your government.  Churches use the roads, too.

Quote:
For instance.. tomorrow the united states is atheist, in that, I mean, they have established, through whatever means necessary, "naturalism" or "humanism" as the official position of the US government.

I am opposed to this, and it still wouldn't be atheism.  It would be naturalism or humanism.

Quote:
Establishment clause violation?

Naturalism, no.  Humanism, maybe.

Quote:
Of course this is all academics.. theoretical.. but it is interesting to think about.. for me at least.

I think it's a good question.  In fact, it ought to help atheists to have it asked.

Quote:
Isn't mathematics a science? so they will have the basics of science........... understood through the prism of math.

I don't think most scientists would agree.  Math is used in science, but I don't know that it strictly fits the definition.  Then again, higher math is not my thing.  Maybe they do learn things through experiment, observation, and hypothesis, but I was under the assumption that things are proven deductively.

Quote:
I cannot believe that the future scientists of the world really benefited much from their education in science during k-12.  I would assume the majority of their knowledge came from undergrad, grad and post grad.

From a neurological point of view, what you get out of k-8 is your neural network and your critical thinking skills, which will help you learn all that shit in high school and college.

 

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 Quote:This is a bad

 

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This is a bad argument. If someone could withhold knowledge(or simply not be aware) of what causes tornadoes, hurricanes, or lightning, then we have seen religion usually fills in these gaps with God and makes their existence teleological with respect to certain grievances said God has. Not understanding germ theory and washing yourself regularly can lead to serious disease. There are very real consequences to taking science out of school.  Not having a fundamental understanding of science(assuming you won't get it from anywhere else) really does alter your entire worldview, especially if you have been indoctrinated with anti-science religious beliefs or superstitions during that K-12 timespan. If you are arguing that the majority of useful scientific knowledge you will attain with respect to your given field will be learned after mandatory public schooling, then that is a valid point, but a completely separate argument from what you have lumped it in with. Having a general scientific education is quite important, and is many times the specific impetus for attaining higher education in scientific fields, as it was in my case.

 

It's only a really bad argument because your inferring what I did not imply.

 

I never said that the students who lack a formal education in the sciences Matt was referring didn't have any knowledge of the science.  In fact, my argument presumes that they do.. merely that it is learned outside of the classroom.

 

Plus.. "anti-science" would not be allowed to be taught in the classroom in this hypothetical world.  Where did I ever say that? I am merely framing the removal of all these different sciences (biology, physics, etc) as a decision to focus on a very specific curriculum.


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 Quote:If government

 

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If government enforces exactly the same laws on religion as non-religion, then it is neutral.

Many people would disagree with you on this point (Justice Souter, Breyer).  Hypothetical person, E.g., "you are saying "neutral with respect to other establishments that the government is regulating," I believe that true neutrality is only given when you leave the establishment alone.  In a world where there is only chicken and steak, I am not "neutral" towards chicken just because I eat it as much as steak.  I can only be truly neutral by never having eaten it."

Quote:
Government funding is an entirely different question, but I think that entails more of the idea of not promoting one religion over any other, or a lack of one.

Many people would disagree with you on this one too.  Although probably none of the justices... except maybe Stevens.

If I fund public schools per capita.. many people would still find problems with funding parochial schools per capita as well, because, this would be, in their minds, "aiding the advancement of religion."

Quote:
I don't have a fully formed opinion of this specific question, but with regard to religion, I don't see it applying.  You're born into your race.  Religion (ostensibly) is a choice.

Merely was another example of the aforementioned baseline problem.

Quote:
In the same way taxing a secular business is not an infringement.  Taxation is simply paying for your government.  Churches use the roads, too.

People pay taxes on income.  Corporations pay taxes on profit.  (simplified, yes, I know--maybe even incorrect)

I guess we can argue about whether churches can be designated as "non-profit" organizations.  I believe the theory being, though, on non-profit organizations, is that the organization itself doesn't benefit from the public utilities, only the individual people making up the organization (because they are allowed to be paid a certain amount).

Q: whether churches should be allowed NPO status.. but they are.. and along with that NPO state comes many restrictions I believe.. one including, limitations on salaries.  But I could be wrong on this one.. someone feel free to correct me.

Point being.. if church = secular business.. then yes, would seem, at the very least, immoral to let them benefit from public welfare benefits and not pay.  But if church = npo, then not the case.  And in anycase, back to the baseline problem mentioned earlier.

Quote:
From a neurological point of view, what you get out of k-8 is your neural network and your critical thinking skills, which will help you learn all that shit in high school and college.

Well that's what reading was for! My curriculum included reading.  You can read about anything and critically discuss the issues and themes.  No neural problems there (maybe).  As for math as a science.. I don't know what scientist think.. I for one am not sure.. I looked it up on dictionary.com.. that's all I got.

 

 


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Many people would disagree with you on this point (Justice Souter, Breyer).

I'm quite sure that Souter's opinion cannot regularly be correlated to the intent, or even content, of the constitution.

(No, I'm not a fan.)

Quote:
I believe that true neutrality is only given when you leave the establishment alone.

The point is, churches should either be non-profits or for-profits.  They take in money.  Pretty much everything else in the U.S. that involves money changing hands gets taxed.  Allowing them tax exempt status is favorable treatment.

If they (churches) argue that they are providing a public service, then they are saying that they want the government to regulate what they can and can't do with their money, because that's what happens when you get tax exempt status for anything else.  (Oh, and  that would clearly be violation of church and state separation.)

Quote:
If I fund public schools per capita.. many people would still find problems with funding parochial schools per capita as well, because, this would be, in their minds, "aiding the advancement of religion."

Well, yeah.  That's because they're private schools, and they're religious.  Two reasons not to fund them.

Quote:
I guess we can argue about whether churches can be designated as "non-profit" organizations.  I believe the theory being, though, on non-profit organizations, is that the organization itself doesn't benefit from the public utilities, only the individual people making up the organization (because they are allowed to be paid a certain amount).

Right.  Non-profits are extremely limited in what they can do.  If churches want to go that route, fine, but there would be a lot of churches that would have to change their spending habits and pay scales significantly.  I'm not sure if you're aware just how much money some churches make.  It's pretty amazing.

Quote:
Point being.. if church = secular business.. then yes, would seem, at the very least, immoral to let them benefit from public welfare benefits and not pay.  But if church = npo, then not the case.  And in anycase, back to the baseline problem mentioned earlier.

Non-profits have a lot of regulations, including salary limits, etc.  I'm not an accountant, so I can't explain all of it, but I think many churches would have trouble justifying themselves as not for profit.  There's a lot of profit in religion.

 

 

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RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
If government enforces exactly the same laws on religion as non-religion, then it is neutral.

Many people would disagree with you on this point (Justice Souter, Breyer).  Hypothetical person, E.g., "you are saying "neutral with respect to other establishments that the government is regulating," I believe that true neutrality is only given when you leave the establishment alone.  In a world where there is only chicken and steak, I am not "neutral" towards chicken just because I eat it as much as steak.  I can only be truly neutral by never having eaten it."

Being neutral toward religion is not the same as ignoring them. Neutrality means that you do not take into consideration whether they're religious in a decision.

Did you make over X amount of money?

Yes. Then pay taxes.

No. Then don't pay taxes.

That's neutrality. The question of religion never came into the decision.


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Quote:Did you make over X

Quote:

Did you make over X amount of money?

Yes. Then pay taxes.

No. Then don't pay taxes.

That's neutrality. The question of religion never came into the decision.

Great way to put it.

 

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 Quote:I'm quite sure that

 

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I'm quite sure that Souter's opinion cannot regularly be correlated to the intent, or even content, of the constitution.

(No, I'm not a fan.)

Heh.. I see that.  What about breyer?

Quote:
If they (churches) argue that they are providing a public service, then they are saying that they want the government to regulate what they can and can't do with their money, because that's what happens when you get tax exempt status for anything else.  (Oh, and  that would clearly be violation of church and state separation.)

What would be? regulation of the church and what they would do with their money?

If you're saying what I think your saying:

You can't have it both ways.. saying that for the purpose of taxes, you must treat them equally with secular activity and tax them equally.. but when it comes to benefits.. you must treat them unequally and not be allowed to give them npo status (tax exempt status).

 

Quote:
Well, yeah.  That's because they're private schools, and they're religious.  Two reasons not to fund them.

Quote you:

Quote:
Government funding is an entirely different question, but I think that entails more of the idea of not promoting one religion over any other, or a lack of one.

Equal access to religious schools does not promote one religion over another.. since.. both would have access to it.

If merely giving money on an equal basis as you do secular schools (both schools are regulated by the state.. "accredited&quotEye-wink.. then that would run contrary to your whole baseline of what is "neutral."

It would be unnuetral to treat the private schools (which teach secularly required subjects) differently than secular schools.

Quote:
I'm not sure if you're aware just how much money some churches make.  It's pretty amazing.

I'm not sure your aware of how much most church employees get paid.  In anycase.. I think the main regulation might not be a salary cap (once again, I'm not an accountant either) but rather a substantive restriction.  No person in the organization can be paid by percentage of profit.  

What this allows is for the donors to have access to how much individuals in the organizations get paid before they donate to the organization. 

 


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 Quote:Being neutral toward

 

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Being neutral toward religion is not the same as ignoring them. Neutrality means that you do not take into consideration whether they're religious in a decision.

Did you make over X amount of money?

Yes. Then pay taxes.

No. Then don't pay taxes.

That's neutrality. The question of religion never came into the decision.

Does your organization get more than 90% of its budget from regular members?

If yes.  Then tax exempt.

If no. Then not tax exempt.

That's neutrality according to your definition.  The question of religion never came into the decision.

Does your school teach math, reading, writing?

If yes. Fully funded.

If no. Then not fully funded.

That's neutral too. The question of religion never came into the decision.

The former would allow for tax exempt for catholics but not jehovah witness's.  The latter for every single religious institution--funded as much as public schools.

Problem with either of those?

 


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If they are teaching

If they are teaching religion then they shouldn't get public funding or tax exempt status - unless they are going to provide exactly the same ammount of money for schools for every single religion out there (including radical wahabist Islam, Fred Phelps style Christianity, Voodoo, Church of Satan, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Scientology, etc) AND for schools that specifically teach that religion is utter bullshit and that no gods exist - THAT would be an atheist school. Secular means that it's not dealt with by the school - leave it up to the parents/churches. If they aren't teaching proper science they are doing a disservice to the children and the nation as a whole - having ignorant people is bad for society.

Don't pray in our schools and we won't think in your churches. The IDiots who want chapters on ID in biology textbooks should ask themselves if they'd like it if a chapter about evolution was added btween Genesis and Exodus in every Buybull sold in the US.

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 Quote:If they are teaching

 

Quote:
If they are teaching religion then they shouldn't get public funding or tax exempt status - unless they are going to provide exactly the same ammount of money for schools for every single religion out there (including radical wahabist Islam, Fred Phelps style Christianity, Voodoo, Church of Satan, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Scientology, etc) AND for schools that specifically teach that religion is utter bullshit and that no gods exist - THAT would be an atheist school.

Well.. yes.. that would be the application of this theory.. as long as those other school taught the required course.. anything ontop of that would be just fine.

Quote:
If they aren't teaching proper science they are doing a disservice to the children and the nation as a whole - having ignorant people is bad for society.

I already dealt with this contention.. it's overbroad.  Selected sciences does not mean "no proper sciences."

Quote:
Don't pray in our schools and we won't think in your churches. The IDiots who want chapters on ID in biology textbooks should ask themselves if they'd like it if a chapter about evolution was added btween Genesis and Exodus in every Buybull sold in the US.

Science works whether you believe in it or not.

Fine.  Doesn't really address anything I said.  I never said anything about allowing school run prayers at public schools.  My point was merely equal funding for religious schools (if they teach the required classes).  And, on a separate issue, there is nothing wrong with teaching a more narrow curricula.  Teach everything but biology and astronomy.  That sure leaves a lot of sciences where the theory of evolution wouldn't even come up, e.g., math, physics, chemistry, sociology,  etc., etc., etc.

 


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Do we really need more

Do we really need more idiots here? I think it's important to know both those sciences - Bad enough people that took it disbelieve in evolution - do you want people to not know the sun is a star or think the sun goes around the Earth? Wouldn't it be better for the kids who go to college to already know something about this? You're also assuming only the Christians that oppose evolution and such would be deciding - what if some ultra-fanatic Bible literalists want it taught that pi= exactly 3? What if a Hindu fundie wants to teach that the Earth is balanced on turtles and elephants? What about a scientologist who wants to add the Lord Xenu shit to History and teach that Psyhiatry and Psychology are scams? What about the fundy Wahabists who want to teach geography with no Israel on the map and History saying the Holocaust never happened? And if they fund religious schools at all, that is still public money going to teach religion which is a big no-no constitutionally.

Math is Math by the way, not Science - they're 2 totally different departments and in totally different buildings at the college level. Science USES math.

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RhadTheGizmo

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
Being neutral toward religion is not the same as ignoring them. Neutrality means that you do not take into consideration whether they're religious in a decision.

Did you make over X amount of money?

Yes. Then pay taxes.

No. Then don't pay taxes.

That's neutrality. The question of religion never came into the decision.

Does your organization get more than 90% of its budget from regular members?

If yes.  Then tax exempt.

If no. Then not tax exempt.

That's neutrality according to your definition.  The question of religion never came into the decision.

Makes sense. However, my organization (business) get 90% of its budget from regular members and I am not tax exempt.

So, what kind of organization were YOU talking about, then?

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Does your school teach math, reading, writing?

If yes. Fully funded.

If no. Then not fully funded.

That's neutral too. The question of religion never came into the decision.

The former would allow for tax exempt for catholics but not jehovah witness's.  The latter for every single religious institution--funded as much as public schools.

Problem with either of those?

Well, it's all fine and dandy except that if you answered "yes" to the school question, you can't teach religion.

So, yes, it's a neutral question with neutral answers and we end up with a secular school. Like it should be.


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 Quote:Math is Math by the

 

Quote:
Math is Math by the way, not Science - they're 2 totally different departments and in totally different buildings at the college level. Science USES math.

math
noun
a science (or group of related sciences) dealing with the logic of quantity and shape and arrangement [syn: mathematics

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.
mathematics
noun
a science (or group of related sciences) dealing with the logic of quantity and shape and arrangement 

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.
Quote:
Bad enough people that took it disbelieve in evolution - do you want people to not know the sun is a star or think the sun goes around the Earth? Wouldn't it be better for the kids who go to college to already know something about this? You're also assuming only the Christians that oppose evolution and such would be deciding - what if some ultra-fanatic Bible literalists want it taught that pi= exactly 3? What if a Hindu fundie wants to teach that the Earth is balanced on turtles and elephants? What about a scientologist who wants to add the Lord Xenu shit to History and teach that Psyhiatry and Psychology are scams? What about the fundy Wahabists who want to teach geography with no Israel on the map and History saying the Holocaust never happened? And if they fund religious schools at all, that is still public money going to teach religion which is a big no-no constitutionally.

I'm pretty sure that part of the requirement of the state is that you must use certain books.. if a teacher uses a mathbooks and teachers her students that its wrong... well then, i guess thats just part of the problem created by being neutral towards religion.  

Can't have it both ways though.. that say "treat religion like secular activities" and say that when a private school teaches secular subjects.. that you can't give them money for teaching those subjects.. especially when there would be no problem giving the money to secular private schools.

 


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 Quote:So, what kind of

 

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So, what kind of organization were YOU talking about, then?

I didn't say that other organizations wouldn't get caught up in it..

the problem with such a regulation is that it discriminates against smaller, forming religions, yet includes larger, formed ones.  A similar case came up sometime ago.. deemed unconstitutional.  But thats just a bit of history.

Quote:
Well, it's all fine and dandy except that if you answered "yes" to the school question, you can't teach religion.

Per your standard mentioned before... asking a question that includes the question of religion = nonneutral.

 

You can't have it both ways.. either neutral means you can never bring up the question of religion.. or you can.  And if you can.. if you can please give a reason how in any way, shape, or form it can be said that the government is being "neutral" towards religion when it says "it is constitutionally required that we burden (e.g., taxes) religion as much as we burden analogous secular activity" and, at the same time, "it is constitutionally required that we deny all benefits (e.g., school funding) to religion even though we grant that benefit to analogous secular activities"?

 


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I like the fact that Brian

I like the fact that Brian moved beyond the question while relating to the question! (post 4)

    The inspiration of the FF's was not perfect nor perfected. They were the minority deists (soft atheists), and mentally semi forced brainwashed to appease religion.

Who are we now this day,,, much different, much improved ? 

The fact that the churches are still tax exempt speaks volumes about the influence of religion. We are religion. The constitution is religion. Improve religion.

    The Church of Hookers should be tax exempt  ..... Debate?   


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 He didn't do anything of

 He didn't do anything of the sort! His response was so non-responsive I didn't know what to do!

Heh.. while I'm all a fan of improving the constitution, I'm not sure religion getting npo status speaks volumes towards our influences anymore than npo status for charitable organizations speaks volumes towards our influences. 

Tax exempt church of hookers.. I'm fine with that. 


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 He didn't do anything of

 He didn't do anything of the sort! His response was so non-responsive I didn't know what to do!

Heh.. while I'm all a fan of improving the constitution, I'm not sure religion getting npo status speaks volumes towards our influences anymore than npo status for charitable organizations speaks volumes towards our influences. 

Tax exempt church of hookers.. I'm fine with that. 


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Wow what non-answers. Asshat

Wow what non-answers. Asshat avatar time maybe?


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Answer Matt , I didn't even

Answer Matt , I didn't even get the question

  .... and any fun theist who likes hookers is half cool with me !  

    When's the 'life celebration' to begin .... ?  We got beer, we got girls, we got earth. What's the problem ?  ..... Atheists do have a clue ! 


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 Quote:Wow what

 

Quote:
Wow what non-answers. Asshat avatar time maybe?

What was a non-answer? When you said math isn't a science and I pulled its definition from the princeton dictionary which said it was?

 

Or when I said "treat religious activities like analogous secular ones" as a baseline for governmental neutrality necessarily leads to the problem of teachers in private religious schools who can freely teach their religion ontop of secular books?

or were you responding to this:

Quote:
He didn't do anything of the sort! His response was so non-responsive I didn't know what to do!

 

Heh.. while I'm all a fan of improving the constitution, I'm not sure religion getting npo status speaks volumes towards our influences anymore than npo status for charitable organizations speaks volumes towards our influences. 

Tax exempt church of hookers.. I'm fine with that.

Which had no appliance to you and was merely in response to IAMGODASYOU's post (which was in reference to Brian's #4's post) before it. 

 

 


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So, what kind of organization were YOU talking about, then?

I didn't say that other organizations wouldn't get caught up in it..

the problem with such a regulation is that it discriminates against smaller, forming religions, yet includes larger, formed ones.  A similar case came up sometime ago.. deemed unconstitutional.  But thats just a bit of history.

I was asking what kind of organization is tax exempt by having its members contribute to 90% of its budget since my business does not have that advantage. Therefore, there have to be more questions to decide whether that organization is tax exempt. What was that question? Oh yes... is your organization a religious organization? So, it's not a neutral stance taken by the IRS.

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

Quote:
Well, it's all fine and dandy except that if you answered "yes" to the school question, you can't teach religion.

Per your standard mentioned before... asking a question that includes the question of religion = nonneutral.

That wasn't a question. It was a fact. If your school is government funded, you can't teach religion.

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

You can't have it both ways.. either neutral means you can never bring up the question of religion.. or you can.  And if you can.. if you can please give a reason how in any way, shape, or form it can be said that the government is being "neutral" towards religion when it says "it is constitutionally required that we burden (e.g., taxes) religion as much as we burden analogous secular activity" and, at the same time, "it is constitutionally required that we deny all benefits (e.g., school funding) to religion even though we grant that benefit to analogous secular activities"?

If you want TRUE and ABSOLUTE neutrality, then religious organizations CANNOT benefit from the government in any way. That is roads, police, firemen, etc, etc.

 

If they're using those services, they should pay taxes like everyone else. That's neutrality.


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Sue the Pope and the rest of

Sue the Pope and the rest of them for back taxes and fraud ! Pay up fuckers .... now go away ....


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To address your question

To address your question "only as a legal matter":  If the government took the official position of atheism it would in fact be a violation of the EC.  To take the position of atheism is to say the State either does not believe in god or religion or seriously doubts them.  This would be taking a negative position against god and religion which could theoretically lead to undue burdens on church.  The only position the State can take is secular. 

If you are an atheist you could be a secularist, just as you could be a communist, or a Marxist.  Now pay attention, here is where it gets tricky; if you are a secularist you could be atheist, or you could be christian, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Jew, or pacifist, or just about anything not connected to government. A secular government (in theory, at least, until Bush-wacked got in) takes no position for or against religion.  Plainly put, this means nothing will be said or done that could infer the State's favor nor dis-favor toward any or all religions. 

Atheism is not a religion, Hambydammit explained it as well as I have ever seen it explained (post #11).  The only thing we can get dogmatic about is just how much we don't believe in fantasies.  We don't, for instance, advocate ostracization or the outright murder of someone because they believe in god. christianity and islam are, historically, the bloodiest religions ever.  Millions have died since christianity came into existence because someone didn't beleive in their god exactly the way they thought that person should.

Anyway, I digress.  An atheist does not have to be secular any more than a secularist has to be atheist.  In the matter of the State, it cannot be secular if its official position is atheist.  If the State is secular it cannot posit an atheist policy.

As to the EC and schools, any school district (mindful of state laws) probably could suspend the teaching of evolution and it definitely would not be a violation of the EC.  Evolution is supported by facts and evidence that has been proven time and again.  It is a science class not a religion.  Religion is not a science, it is a belief system based on ancient popular writings of a bunch of cave dwellers that has been altered thousands of times over nearly two thousand years till it no longer much resembles what was originally penned.  Also, damned near every story has been borrowed from older religions and cultures, altering their stories to fit christianity. Not even original, were they?  In the court cases in which the SC ruled against a school district which had banned the teaching of evolution it was not because evolution was banned, it was because they tried to replace it with creationism, a clear violation of the EC.  The case was not complicated at all when looked at rationally and not through rose-colored glasses.

Displaying religious icons on public property is giving tacit approval of one religion over others.  In this case, it was giving tacit approval of two religions over others.  In fact, closing public buildings for christmas, easter, passover, hanukka, or any other religious holiday is a clear violation of the EC.  By the way, when was the last time the government shut down for a muslim, buddhist, tao, or native american religious occasion.  Would our government of right thinking christians ever vote to observe a holiday in honor of another religion.  I think there was a relatively recent incident in Congress when the guest preacher (for lack of a more specific term) was a muslim imam who was nearly run out on a rail.  Fine upstanding christians hurling invectives at him after he had been invited to give the daily prayer.  This is why separation of church and state is so damned important.

Also, individual rights has to do with rights of a personal nature, not the right to have your religion become the state's religion.  Whose religion should it be?  Yours, mine (for sake of argument only), the buddhist across the street or the muslim teaching religious studies at the local college?  Whose religion should it be? A period of about 700 years called the Dark Ages is the perfect answer to this.  christianity had its chance to rule and failed miserably at it.  While you say you approve of our secular government some of your points and arguments say otherwise.

Where does "atheism = non-position" come from? How did you arrive at that postulation?  Atheists dis-believe god and religion, nothing more and nothing less.  We, as individuals, may have many positions on religion, including a non-position but, atheism is not equivalent to a non-position.

As to your question of regulating and taxing religion, yes it can be a neutral exercise of government when regulated or taxed for secular purposes.  Not taxing churches imo is an infringement when the governement requires little or no oversight as to how it is spent.  If a church uses profits resulting from no taxation for the purpose of proselytizing then the government is aiding religion and that is not what a secular government is supposed to be doing. Tax exempt status for churches should stop and they should be taxed in the same manner as any other business.  Profits in the religion biz must be damned good.  I know of at least 15 local preachers who live in a gated community in homes starting at 800k.  One currently has his house on the market at a cool 1.1 m$.  It belongs to him, not the church.

Some regulation is necessary, and secular as long as it's purpose is to provide protection to the citizens.  Throughout history churches have played a part in all kinds of evil. Scams of every sort, and crimes minor and major.  This is certainly not to say all churches are this way, because they certainly are not.  Although I'd guess a majority have in one way or another and at one time or another been involved in scam or scandal.  Church officials need to be required (regulation) to report incidents of child abuse or sexual assault, they are required to accurately report income and expenses, and they are not allowed to perform human sacrifice.  Churches are already regulated, though rarely enforced, by a variety of state and federal laws and codes.  The only ones who bitch about them are the churches, just like any other business bitches about the same or other regulations they have to abide by.  You know, I've often wondered how much money the mafia launders through churches every year?

The EC is not as confusing as you and others make it out to be.  The fact that the SC justices can't come to unanimous decisions says more about their own religious beliefs than the law.  Looked at rationally, that is using a little common sense, there is nothing complicated about it.  Fundies and their revisionists are always eager to stretch the truth in order to push their agenda.  Sometimes (often) they tell outright lies, but that's okay, it's being done for god.  And, anyway, god will forgive me no matter how many times I do it. Right?

"Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society." Thomas Jefferson
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 Quote:If you want TRUE and

 

Quote:
If you want TRUE and ABSOLUTE neutrality, then religious organizations CANNOT benefit from the government in any way. That is roads, police, firemen, etc, etc.

I don't know how I can point out your inconsistency any other way.  If the church cannot benefit in any way.. then it cannot be regulated in any way (e.g. taxed).  The underlying premise for the first necessarily leads to the next.  

 

As for your "fact" that if your school teaches religion it can't be funded.. that is just categorically untrue.  The only question that remains in or current system is how much can they be funded.


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 Great post bulldog...

 Great post bulldog... couple things:

 

Quote:
In the court cases in which the SC ruled against a school district which had banned the teaching of evolution it was not because evolution was banned, it was because they tried to replace it with creationism, a clear violation of the EC.

Untrue.  The first of these cases was a state just banning the teaching of evolution.  The second was the state requiring equal time.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epperson_v._Arkansas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwards_v._Aguillard

 

Quote:
While you say you approve of our secular government some of your points and arguments say otherwise.

Many of the times I'm speaking in the hypothetical in response to peoples points.  Such as sandwich. He makes a point, then I state how it is inconsistent and what would make it consistent.

 

Quote:
Where does "atheism = non-position" come from?

It was a statement in response to Hammy, I was trying to get some clarification I believe.

 

Quote:
As to your question of regulating and taxing religion, yes it can be a neutral exercise of government when regulated or taxed for secular purposes.

I understand that.

 

Quote:
Not taxing churches imo is an infringement when the governement requires little or no oversight as to how it is spent. 

How can you infringe by not getting involved?  As a matter of common sense this seems to be paradoxical.

 

Quote:
If a church uses profits resulting from no taxation for the purpose of proselytizing then the government is aiding religion and that is not what a secular government is supposed to be doing.

Or.. by not taxing.. it is not placing a burden on the religion.

 

Quote:
Tax exempt status for churches should stop and they should be taxed in the same manner as any other business.  Profits in the religion biz must be damned good.  I know of at least 15 local preachers who live in a gated community in homes starting at 800k.  One currently has his house on the market at a cool 1.1 m$.  It belongs to him, not the church.

Well.. as long as his salary isn't a profit sharing salary.. and it is easily accessible to the church members--then I don't see anything wrong with that.

 

The state still sees churches as providing a public benefit.. as long as they fulfill the other requirements of npo's.. I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed that status because they are religious.

 

Quote:
Looked at rationally, that is using a little common sense, there is nothing complicated about it.  Fundies and their revisionists are always eager to stretch the truth in order to push their agenda.  Sometimes (often) they tell outright lies, but that's okay, it's being done for god.  And, anyway, god will forgive me no matter how many times I do it. Right?

According to some theologies.. yes.

 

As for the EC being "not as confusing as I or others make it out to be".. I'm not sure this is the case.. especially when considered in light of the FEC.

 

What seems to be the problem, I think, in a lot of the points of people in this thread is this:  they say that churches should be treated just like analogous secular organizations (iow, ignoring their religiosity) when it comes to taxes.  This would be a form of formal neutrality.  The same sort of neutrality that makes it so that the state (in most cases) can't mention race in a law for the purposes of tax or scholarship. 

 

Yet, they don't accept the flipside of that coin.. which is, if a state wants to, it can fund private religious schools fully because a law can easily be passed which is neutral on its face and yet encompasses religious private schools.

 

e.g., "all accredited schools in this state shall be provided full compensation per capita of tuition for the students in their school."

 

If neutrality requires that the government treat ignore the fact that a church is religious for the purpose of taxing them, then it should also ignore the fact that an accredited school is accredited for the purpose of allowance of funding.

 

This is not to say that a state can say "we will fund christian schools only"--this would be as unconstitutional as saying "we will fund segregated schools only."

 

On the other hand, to be consistent when one says "churches cannot not be taxed because taxing is a burden"--the same underlying premise's flipside would suggest that that a private religious school cannot get funding from the state.. even if the state wishes to give it, and frames a law in a "neutral" way.

 

 


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
If you want TRUE and ABSOLUTE neutrality, then religious organizations CANNOT benefit from the government in any way. That is roads, police, firemen, etc, etc.

I don't know how I can point out your inconsistency any other way.  If the church cannot benefit in any way.. then it cannot be regulated in any way (e.g. taxed).  The underlying premise for the first necessarily leads to the next. 

You're right. That would be consistent; however, they do use the roads, police, etc and they DON'T pay. So, that is pretty inconsistent.

 

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

As for your "fact" that if your school teaches religion it can't be funded.. that is just categorically untrue.  The only question that remains in or current system is how much can they be funded.

Let me clarify. You can teach about religions in public schools but government-paid teachers cannot proselytize or pray to students.

 

I also noticed that you avoided the point I made where if an organization is tax exempt merely by having 90% of its members contribute to it budget, then another question must have been involved there not just the one you mentioned.


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 Quote:You're right. That

 

Quote:
You're right. That would be consistent; however, they do use the roads, police, etc and they DON'T pay. So, that is pretty inconsistent.

 

Why? They're considered npo's... as such, like other analogous secular organizations with npo status... they don't need to pay taxes.

 

Quote:
Let me clarify. You can teach about religions in public schools but government-paid teachers cannot proselytize or pray to students.

"Government paid teachers" means teachers within public schools? Or merely teachers getting money from government sources?

 

Zelman v. Simmons, a case in Ohio, upheld that the state could give tuition money to parents and they could give it to as religious a school as they wanted.  If you don't consider this "government paid" teachers.. then, fine, you are correct.  A teacher in a public school may not proselytize or pray to students.

 

Then again.. that's not what we were talking about.  We were talking about government funding of religious schools.  Zelman v. Simmons seems to suggest that's pretty much a-okay as long as its part of a facially neutral program.

 

Your contention was that if the school was religious it couldn't be funded.. so I responded with my quote.. now it seems your trying to change what the issue was.

 

Quote:
I also noticed that you avoided the point I made where if an organization is tax exempt merely by having 90% of its members contribute to it budget, then another question must have been involved there not just the one you mentioned.

No.. there wasn't.  It was merely to suggest a facially neutral law can be structured in such a way that can encompass religious activities.  If you don't find anything wrong with the catholic church getting tax exempt status under this "90%" rule.. then, okay, consistent in terms of how you define neutrality.

 

I just didn't think you would be.

 

The same logic would allow a state to do this:

 

"Any organization that gets more than 90% of its support form regular members will get a stipend in order to upkeep its buildings."

 

Well.. kudos there too.. a facially neutral law that encompasses secular as well as religious organizations.. and gives them money.

 

If you can't discriminate on the basis of religion for the purpose of taxes.. then you can't discriminate against religion on the basis of this benefit either.  

 

But.. then again, this "facially neutral law" would basically lead to the funding the upkeep of a church building.  All things being equal, I'm fine with that, you?


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
You're right. That would be consistent; however, they do use the roads, police, etc and they DON'T pay. So, that is pretty inconsistent.

 

Why? They're considered npo's... as such, like other analogous secular organizations with npo status... they don't need to pay taxes.

Sorry. A church or religious organization is NOT the same a non-profit corporation or a charitable organization. A religious organization may be a charitable organization as well, but not all religious organizations are.

 

In fact, the IRS has special guidelines as defined in section 512 of the Internal Revenue Code to explicitly exclude organizations run by religious orders. So, no neutrality there.

 

 

RhadTheGizmo wrote:

"Government paid teachers" means teachers within public schools? Or merely teachers getting money from government sources?

 

Zelman v. Simmons, a case in Ohio, upheld that the state could give tuition money to parents and they could give it to as religious a school as they wanted.  If you don't consider this "government paid" teachers.. then, fine, you are correct.  A teacher in a public school may not proselytize or pray to students.

 

Then again.. that's not what we were talking about.  We were talking about government funding of religious schools.  Zelman v. Simmons seems to suggest that's pretty much a-okay as long as its part of a facially neutral program.

 

Your contention was that if the school was religious it couldn't be funded.. so I responded with my quote.. now it seems your trying to change what the issue was.

 

Quote:
I also noticed that you avoided the point I made where if an organization is tax exempt merely by having 90% of its members contribute to it budget, then another question must have been involved there not just the one you mentioned.

No.. there wasn't.  It was merely to suggest a facially neutral law can be structured in such a way that can encompass religious activities.  If you don't find anything wrong with the catholic church getting tax exempt status under this "90%" rule.. then, okay, consistent in terms of how you define neutrality.

 

I just didn't think you would be.

 

The same logic would allow a state to do this:

 

"Any organization that gets more than 90% of its support form regular members will get a stipend in order to upkeep its buildings."

 

Well.. kudos there too.. a facially neutral law that encompasses secular as well as religious organizations.. and gives them money.

 

If you can't discriminate on the basis of religion for the purpose of taxes.. then you can't discriminate against religion on the basis of this benefit either.  

 

But.. then again, this "facially neutral law" would basically lead to the funding the upkeep of a church building.  All things being equal, I'm fine with that, you?

It's not a "facially neutral law" as I explained above.

And you were right. It is worse than I thought. There's been numerous cases of courts siding with private religious schools. Is the government aiding private religious schools a violation of the EC, then?

 

Through this conversation, I think I understand a little more of my own thoughts. I completely disagree with you that neutrality means ignoring. A church should be taxed like any other organization unless it meets the strict requirements of a charitable org or non-profit corp. However, you did bring up a good point.

You see, neutrality of X means to not take into consideration X into a decision at all. This, like you stated, means that if the government is going to provide funding for a school, it should not into consideration whether that school is religious as long as it meets the requirements of any other school. Now, this makes me wonder what the requirements are for a school to be funded. Does it have to teach evolution? Should it allow prayer? IF so, should it allow all prayer or only prayer that that particular school endorses?

That was another "thinking aloud" segment brought to you by sandwiches

 


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 Quote:You see, neutrality

 

Quote:
You see, neutrality of X means to not take into consideration X into a decision at all. This, like you stated, means that if the government is going to provide funding for a school, it should not into consideration whether that school is religious as long as it meets the requirements of any other school. Now, this makes me wonder what the requirements are for a school to be funded. Does it have to teach evolution? Should it allow prayer? IF so, should it allow all prayer or only prayer that that particular school endorses?

I responded to a lot of the other stuff.. but I erased it all when I got to this paragraph because it seems much more interesting.

 

Each state decides what is required for a school to be funded.  If they want, they can say they will only fund public school because they want to have complete control over their system of teaching, curriculum, etc. etc.  In such cases, the SC will say they can't prostyletize because, well, that would be "establishing a religion." To think of it another way, there is no way to require prayer at your school or allow prayer at your school by teachers and principles (who, because of their positions, are considered "state actors" in their profession) without taking a nonneutral stance on religion.

 

That is not to say that a state may not choose to grant funding to more than just its public schools.  If they choose to do that, I would say it is a nonneutral stance to say "We will provide funding to all schools that don't pray within their schools."

 

However, requiring the teaching of evolution at all schools that are funded is not a nonneutral requirement.  Evolution, in and of itself, is a religious document, an anti-religious theory, it is merely science.  Therefore, a state can require it be taught without running afoul to what I would consider required neutrality on religion.

 

All this being said, there are certain cases that, I do think there are compelling reasons for allowing a state to discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to inter-religious discrimination.  For instance, if it wants to make a law that says "we will only fund schools that are accredited, and to be a accredited the school must teach x, y, z, and not discriminate on the basis of religion or race"--then that seems fine to me because I would consider it a compelling state interest (meaning, and interest that overrides normal constitutional constraints) in not funding discriminatory schools.

 

I think the SC would agree with me on that one.  


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RhadTheGizmo wrote:

 

Quote:
You see, neutrality of X means to not take into consideration X into a decision at all. This, like you stated, means that if the government is going to provide funding for a school, it should not into consideration whether that school is religious as long as it meets the requirements of any other school. Now, this makes me wonder what the requirements are for a school to be funded. Does it have to teach evolution? Should it allow prayer? IF so, should it allow all prayer or only prayer that that particular school endorses?

I responded to a lot of the other stuff.. but I erased it all when I got to this paragraph because it seems much more interesting.

 

Each state decides what is required for a school to be funded.  If they want, they can say they will only fund public school because they want to have complete control over their system of teaching, curriculum, etc. etc.  In such cases, the SC will say they can't prostyletize because, well, that would be "establishing a religion." To think of it another way, there is no way to require prayer at your school or allow prayer at your school by teachers and principles (who, because of their positions, are considered "state actors" in their profession) without taking a nonneutral stance on religion.

 

That is not to say that a state may not choose to grant funding to more than just its public schools.  If they choose to do that, I would say it is a nonneutral stance to say "We will provide funding to all schools that don't pray within their schools."

 

However, requiring the teaching of evolution at all schools that are funded is not a nonneutral requirement.  Evolution, in and of itself, is a religious document, an anti-religious theory, it is merely science.  Therefore, a state can require it be taught without running afoul to what I would consider required neutrality on religion.

 

You had me until you said that evolution is a religious document. I think you've opened up a new can of worms. Evolution is not any more a religious document than any other scientific statement that contradicts a religious statement. Are you saying that science should not be taught in a GOVERNMENT-FUNDED school simply because of RELIGIOUS dogma? Then, that's neutrality going out the window, it seems.

 

Edit: Oh wait... upon rereading this: Did you mean that it is merely science?

 

If so, ignore my initial paragraph. =P


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 Heh.. yes, your edit is

 Heh.. yes, your edit is correct.  Evolution is merely science.  Science, in itself, is neutral towards religion.